Posted by: phoebz | July 20, 2008

How to smile like a geisha, Gion, Kyoto

29 June 2008

Good morning, Kyoto!

Weather isn’t the perfect for my tight schedule of visiting Gion, make walking tour through the Higashiyama trail as recommended by LP and then catch the train to Nara as promised as my hotel was booked at NAIST for tonight.

So I packed up all my things (which constantly grow into bigger pile in a much fatter travelling bag). I checked out and left my luggages in the front desk, which gave me a token to get it back. The receptionist guy was very helpful and offer about a one-day ticket for Kyoto bus (subway doesn’t cover as much as Tokyo), and I bought it since it’s only 500 yen. I only had yesterday’s experience riding the bus to Kinkaku-ji with my friend, it took sometime before really adjusting).

 

hotel that claims to be next to the Imperial Palace (Gosho)

hotel that claims to be next to the Imperial Palace (Gosho)

church on the same block as hotel

church on the same block as hotel

Imperial Palace Park gate

Imperial Palace Park gate

 

 

From there I walk to the nearest bus station, conveniently passing a kaban (police station), and then I waited for sometime, first kinda forgot which number of the bus I should take (take notes!) then after the bus passed, I quickly remembered, it was that bus ! Heh.  Another wait then I took another bus and then it was wrong, so I dropped out on the next stop, and run back to the first bus stop because the right bus was appearing. Aduh, imagine the hectic plus it was raining (small, but still, an umbrella can add up into the chaos).

I got a seat next to an elderly lady, who, of course, can’t speak English. But having been in Japan for several days now, I now understand it’s better ask or you’d be left deserted in some unknown territory. So I asked her. She blurted out some explanations, and when my stop was nearing, i assumed she told me ask to the kaban for the maiko place (Yumekoubou), and pat me in the hand (blurted out some fast Japanese) and hurry me to the bus door. Arigatou obaasan!

Thanks to the lady, I arrived in Gion district.

 

Gion (祇園) is a district of KyotoJapan, originally developed in the Middle Ages, in front of Yasaka Shrine. The district was built to accommodate the needs of travelers and visitors to the shrine. It eventually evolved to become one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in all of Japan.

The geisha in the Gion district do not refer to themselves as geisha; instead, Gion geisha use the local term geiko. While the term geisha means “artist”, the more direct term geiko means specifically “a woman of art.”

 

a shrine I passed on Shijō-dori

a shrine I passed on Shijō-dori

For sure I dropped of in the kaban (asking directions have never been an issue with me, I’d rather talk to some strangers than die not knowing where I am). The good thing about the policemen here are, they are very polite, they are nice even to strangers (i.e. don’t run away) and they speak OK English (at least the young officers do). 

 

So I got to the maiko makeover safely. It was in the 4th floor of an business building. I saw some shop selling traditional food (swear don’t know what they are!) on the way. But then I went to get in because my appointment time is almost on. The makeover place was rather small, with one studio, one waiting room, one rather big preparation room, where there are lockers to put your clothes when you are stripped into an undergarment for kimono, and three sets of make up chairs equipped with mirrors, and a wardrobe full of colorful kimonos.

So I got into the white undergarment and wear the tabi sock (sock with thumb separated from the rest of the toes he he) and sit on the chair. The amazing thing is, none of this people speak good English, so it’s crazy. I guess the make up artist memorize some of the lines like “This is  foundation”, “Now lipstick..” and some similar steps needed to be done to the customer. But, other than that, zip. However she is very nice and I was sort of on the state of “I’m gonna do it whatever it takes”.

Metamorphose 

 

 

 

 

                                                          HENSHIN !!!

pose pasrah menanti tamu

pose pasrah menanti tamu

smile of a geiko

smile of a geiko

The whole process of making over took about 1 hour, and the photography session is probably 20 minutes. Then, the whole make up was torn down in about 10 mins. He he. And all of the sudden I was 10,000 yen poorer.

Can’t say that I’m totally satisfied with the whole thing ( especially because they canceled the photograph session outside in the streets of Gion because of the constant rain). I guess I just have to come back (why do I keep saying this ?)

After that, my journey was a bit at ease. The rain still went on, but I got my 1,000 yen umbrella (from Fujisawa), and I got my shopping mood on. Kyoto turned out to be a lot more artsy craftsy than Tokyo (or was I looking in all the wrong places?), but true, I got most of my souvenirs from yesterday’s trip to Kinkaku-ji. Last night I got some counting of the souvenirs that we have to bring (in Indonesia we have the tradition to bring back something from the place that you visit). So I was visit the little shops along the street of Shijō-dori, had a lot of fun, and bought some souvenirs.

They aren’t that expensive (I managed to stop converting from Yen to Rupiah to save myself from heart attack), and they are all so full of arts… traditional sakura, rabbits, or dragon flies print fabrics was made into purses, lady wallets, cellphone straps and scarf. I almost bought everything.

There was one really lovely store called Chiri-men, highly recommended. The prices weren’t all that cheap (even in Japanese standard), but they have i-will-kill-to-have cute earrings made of kimono fabrics, and hina dolls, and i-wonder-why-there-are-people-who-are-dilligent-enough-to-make tiny fabric vegetables and mini woven basket, and sushi and tiny sized bento for the sushi. I almost fainted! 

Managed to buy only 4 vegetables (they’re to kawaii not to have), several pairs of earrings for my family and myself (spent so much today!). And run away…

 

Heavenly Macha Ice Cream

Heavenly Macha Ice Cream

Still on the same Shijō-dori, there was a store that sold everything green tea. Hubby is a big fan of greentea, in fact the only thing he wanted from my trip as oleh-oleh was only this. So I went there, there were so many kinds of tea to pick from (but no english speaking waiter to help me), so i picked one can of green tea and one sakura tea (because it sounds so sweet), and two packs of green-tea astor-like biscuits which there were testers, so I could taste it (and it tasted great..)

Before I went out the shop, couldn’t help not to pick one cone of this smooth macha ice cream with green-tea biscuit. Taste was not sweet, it was really authentic green tea (yeah as if i know), unlike the macha milkshake I used to have in Japaneser resto back in Bandung.

After that I went to a couple of shop that sells maiko and geisha accessories, wow really expensive. The hair accessories like pin on the hair can cost aout 15,000 yen. OMG! Then I bought a bag of kimono scraps for my craft project (if I ever got a chance), a summer fan decorated in red flowers, and a tabi (not knowing that for the yukata that I bought at Kinkaku-ji, we don’t need to wear socks).

I also went to a kimono shop, that the owner was really nice, and she helped picked out one male yukata (on sale), for hubby, navy color with minimalist pattern. 1,500 yen from 3,500 yen was quite a bargain! So I got it, and she showed me how to tie an obi.

 

The red gate to Maruyama Koen

The red gate to Maruyama Koen

From there, while rain is still pouring, I got myself a lunch at Lawson, a very familiar combini (convenience store), and ran in the rain towards the red gate. The lady in the photo shop right across this gate said that to go to Heian Jingu (my next destination), I would have to go through Maruyama-koen (park). Since I was reading this walking trail of Southern Higashiyama, I chose to walk (though I remembered in vain when the rain became really hard, that the lady actually asked if I would want to take the bus or walk).

Anyway, I am most proud of my physical strength 😀 that day, carrying my backpack, my little sling purse, and a huge bag filled with souvenir, a result of a little uncontrollable shopping earlier.

Because it was raining, and my hands were full with things, it’s very difficult to snap a decent photo. Some of the photos I took either not including me, show a silvery blurry image of rain, or shaky.

 

anyone could translate this?

anyone could translate this?

 

Maruyama-koen duck, at least one of us is enjoying the rain!

Maruyama-koen duck, at least one of us is enjoying the rain!

Yasaka-jinja

Yasaka-jinja

I still walked and walked… would I ever find Heian-jingu?? The souvenir bag was already dangerously soaked wet, and so were the gray pants that I was wearing … (to be continued)

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Responses

  1. This is an awesome travel note 🙂
    Totally envious of your trip to Japan hehehe … keep writing ya, good stuff.

  2. Thanks for the support, Ru! You gotta love Japan, everything is so in order he he.

  3. wuihhhhh….pantes lo pake pupur putih tebal kayak gitu hueeuhe

  4. Hihi … hopefully someday, Phoebz …

  5. @myrna : bedak dingin sekaligus nutupin bekas jerawat 😛

    @Heru : rajin2 lah menabung hehehe


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